The Economics of "Buy American"
Apple is not alone in citing America's lack of certain skilled labor. Technical gaps are being felt across many industries in the country, not just electronics. "So much of the American workforce that used to be on the sewing side is gone," said Hughes. "We don't have the skilled laborers like we used to have," he said. "We're fortunate to be here in Southern California. We've had to do a lot of training and things like that, but we've found a lot of skilled sewers and people that have a really great work ethic."
"Years ago, back in the Carolinas and the South, there used to be an incredible sewing talent back there," said Hughes. "Once all that sewing starting getting sent overseas, those people either aged out, or they've gone to other projects. All of a sudden South Carolina brings in BMW or Mercedes or whoever, and there are other jobs that have opened up that those people have moved to," he explained. "So those jobs, that skill set, it's just not there anymore."
It's not applicable to all industries, but for manufacturing that requires a lot of human manipulation, such as sewing a T-shirt or assembling an electronic item, this shift in the labor force partially explains why it's so rare to find American-made items in certain product categories while others that are simpler are relatively common.
Lesson Learned: Some products will be painfully hard to find stateside. If you have a client insistent on U.S. manufacturing, be prepared to explain that certain products may simply not be available.